Should my association consider the impact of adult learning styles?

Ask yourself this: Do your members really learn anything during the break-out educational sessions at your annual conference? If not, perhaps it is time to take a step back and look beyond traditional learning styles to embrace a more learner-focused approach.

The days of people sitting a half day in a meeting room and listening to one “great” speaker appear to be over. Instead, educational sessions need to incorporate different types of learning elements into the meeting program. For example, speakers need to lead discussions, rather than merely talk at the audience. Ultimately, adults learn best when have they are engaged in two-way conversation with other professionals in their industry.

Of course, we all work with volunteers, so the first step in moving forward is to get your conference committee chair to understand this concept. Assist your conference chair by writing clear learning objectives. These learning objectives should be based on listening to your members and attendees wants and needs.

Once you have identified a list of learning needs, try to create educational program that address your member’s learning preferences and incorporate several approaches to adult learning styles. As an example, your members probably fall into one or more of these categories:

– Visual learners … absorb the most from live sessions.

– Auditory learners … may prefer an option to purchase a recording of the session to listen to over and over.

– Experiential learners … respond well to games, field trips, activities and practical discussions.

– Conceptual learners … enjoy times of quiet reflection and solitude.

By implementing adult learning styles into your association educational programs, you are more likely to create highly rated sessions that will keep your attendees coming back for years to come. Do your members fit into these categories? What innovative approaches have you instituted to enhance the learning environment for your association members?

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